LILLEHAMMER – The Canada-Russia rivalry resumed with Russia edging the Canadians 4-3 in the opening game for both teams at the 2016 Youth Olympics.
Vladislav Koktov had the game winner and goaltender Amir Miftakhov stopped 40 shots on net as the Russians held off a late comeback for the win.
“I think everything started well for us when we scored two goals because that gave us confidence,” said team captain Alexander Khovanov.
Up 2-1, Russia got an insurance goal 23 seconds into the third period thanks to Andrei Svechnikov feeding Kotkov in the slot area from behind the net.
Then an ill-advised clearing attempt from Canada defenceman Benoit Olivier-Groulx was intercepted at the middle of the ice by Alexander Khovanov, who got the puck past goaltender Olivier Rodrigue with a forehand deke for the 4-1 lead. A late comeback attempt fell just short as time ran out following a late goal form Luka Burzan.
Russia got on the scoreboard first, on tough bounce for Canada as a shot from the point came quickly off the boards and bounced off Rorigue’s back for a power play goal.
Svechnikov outraced the Canadian defender to the puck beat Rodrigue with a glove side shot, putting Russia up 2-0. Aggressive forechecking and solid neutral zone play from Russia kept the Canadians at bay through the rest of the period.
Canada found its legs in the second and started to put together some good rushes and heavy pressure goaltender Amir Miftakhov, who robbed Canadian captain Ty Smith on a sure goal with just under five minutes remaining in the second period.
But an interference penalty on Svechnikov gave Canda its first goal of the tournament. On the power play defenceman Aidan Dudas stickhandled his way to the side of the net from the point before dishing it off to Smith sitting in front of the crease to cut the lead to one goal late in the second.
“I thought we responded well in the second period,” said Team Canada head coach Martin Raymond. “This is the first game in Europe on the big ice for these kids and it was a learning experience for us.”
Still despite outshooting the Russians to the tune of 22-8 in the second, Canada wasn’t able to muster any more offence until very late in the third, when they gave the Russians a scare scoring a pair of goals in the final five minutes, the last one coming with five seconds left on the clock. But the Canadians fell just short, giving Russia the win in its first game of the men’s tournament.
“We prefer to play aggressive with all teams, and we were able to do this well against Canada,” said Russian head coach Yevgeni Filinov. “There is still room to improve however.”
Both teams have a day off before resuming the tournament on Monday. Canada will play Finland and Russia faces hosts Norway.